There’s an old saying in San Francisco - I know it’s in Texas, probably in San Francisco - that says ‘fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me 17 times - you can’t get fooled again.’
Sometimes you think a thing is good, and then it isn’t. And then you find a reason to believe it will soon be good, but it still isn’t. And then you find a whole new reason to believe it will be good eventually, and, again, it isn’t. Sometimes this happens with players on the San Francisco Giants. Sometimes, big doofuses expect things that they shouldn’t expect out of players who play for their favorite team.
It me, noted eternal and irrational Giants optimist.
So let’s talk about Josh Osich.
Osich first graced our TV screens in 2015. He started the year in AA, where he was dominant, and lasted just seven innings of AAA ball before getting the call up. For a rookie, he was more than acceptable, posting a 2.20 ERA and 3.90 FIP in 28.2 innings of work. His peripherals were strong, as he struck out 8.48 batters per nine innings, while walking just 2.51. But most exciting was the left-hander’s ability to retire right-handed hitters.
All together he was good for a wildly dramatic Fangraphs WAR of . . . . 0.0. Yay?
Okay, so it wasn’t the type of debut that inspires you to manufacture new baseball deities, but it was the type of rookie campaign that gives you reason to believe that a guy might be an asset moving forward.
You know those people at work who, when they first join the company, take it upon themselves to jump ahead and speed up the process of adapting to the new work environment? They come in a few hours early to clean, and in the process throw away important documents, and then they bring donuts to the whole office because they don’t realize that two-thirds of their co-workers are gluten intolerant, and the other third have deadly allergies to standard confection ingredients?
That was Josh Osich. After the sweet taste of success from 2015, Osich said to himself, “Hey, how can I really impress my bosses?” Then he had a brilliant idea: while the rest of the team was focusing on the 2016 season, Osich decided to get a head start on 2017.
Which is how, in 2016, he managed an FIP of 6.09 (almost nice?), walked more than two batters for every three he struck out, and put together a -1.1 WAR season, the worst mark for a Giant since Ray Durham was worth -1.2 WAR in 2007.
Then the actual 2017 season came, accompanied by heaps of dog poop and grease trap leftovers spewed in every direction, and Osich’s performance was, unfortunately, right on par with his practice run the year prior. His ERA spiked (though his FIP diminished), and his walks increased (though his strikeouts did too). And at the end he was left providing -0.4 WAR.
When spring training began this year, there were, justifiably, a hoard of questions about lefty relievers. Will Smith would start the season on the DL, and it didn’t seem like the Giants had the willingness to spend the funds required to dip into free agency. Osich was the wholly uninspiring elder statesmen of a wholly uninspiring group of left-handed relievers.
But the traditional whispers of spring training sprung as always. Best shape of his life, they predictably cackled. Reworked his mechanics they gleefully screeched.
And it appeared that Osich, indeed, reworked his mechanics. The spring samples - while small and, as I’m ultimately trying to prove here, meaningless - were excellent. 11 innings with nary a run, and only three walks against 16 strikeouts.
My optimism was fueled.
Then opening day came, and in the sixth inning against the Dodgers, clinging to a one-run lead, Brucy Bochy turned to Osich to face the meat of the Dodgers lineup. He retired Corey Seager, then struck out Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger, with a walk sprinkled in between.
If you thought my optimism could be hilariously fueled by 11 innings of spring training and a few broadcaster cliches, you should have seen it after one inning of meaningful baseball against the Dodgers. Boy howdy.
Since that stellar night in Dodger Stadium, Osich has . . . let me look this one up . . . allowed 46% of the batters he’s faced to reach base.
You know that trope that one guy who wrote here (I think his name was Garnt Bisbee? Something of that nature) used to do, where he’d say something obviously inaccurate, claim he was going to fact check it, and then suggest that the fact checking had substantiated his obviously fabricated statement?
Yeah, this is not one of those moments. 50 batters later, Osich has retired 27, and let 23 people reach base. Those numbers are . . . let me look this one up . . . wow, way better than league average (that is an example of said trope).
Admittedly the .445 BABIP isn’t helping matters but there’s only so much you can blame on tongue-twisting acronyms.
Last week, Osich was placed on the 10-day disabled list for tightness in his right hip. D.J. Snelten came up Saturday for a short stint, and looked solid. Tony Watson has obviously been added, and Will Smith is finally back. Barring an injury, the Giants won’t need to dip into Sacramento’s lefty reliever bin anytime soon, and if they do, Snelten has likely surpassed Osich.
It seems not improbable that Osich has played his final game for the Giants. I’m not sure what series of events would have to transpire for him to be back in San Francisco, though I certainly don’t doubt the Giants’ ability to let said events transpire. For all I know he’ll be back next week, trying to get that FIP under 6.00.
But at this point, we’re three years in to him being a really bad pitcher, and the options around him have grown while he has, unfortunately, wilted. And that may be the last we see of him.